Photo: An oil removal ship is seen next to the Costa Concordia cruise ship as it ran aground off the west coast of Italy at Giglio island, January 16, 2012. Over-reliance on electronic navigation systems and a failure of judgement by the captain are seen as possible reasons for one of the worst cruise liner disasters of all time, maritime specialists say. (REUTERS/ Max Rossi)
When I read hastily the headlines on Jan 14—a shipwreck in Italy, seventy missing, three known dead—I immediately thought: it must be the Africans again. The refugees, the clandestine, the invisible, the nameless, the unwanted… Those "less-than-human" people coming from all over the world to the Italian coast, looking for a safe haven from dictatorships, from hunger.
My Somali Italian friend Suad, who works with her community In Italy now, urges her people in Somalia NOT to take that dangerous ride: even if you survive the trip, what waits for you in Italy can be fatal. Italy is in deep economic crisis today, on the verge of bankruptcy and social disorder. The new government struggling to remain a G8 power while the euro and United Europe are at stake. Italy also struggles to overcome a big moral value crisis after twenty years of Berlusconi's reign of sexism, racism, indolence and corruption.
But I was wrong about the Africans. It was a fancy cruise ship full of wealthy foreigners that wrecked unexpectedly near the island of Giglio.
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Editor's Note: In response to an anonymously-sourced wisecrack we published about police corruption in former Soviet states, the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs has responded with a statement, which we are more than happy to publish in full.
Georgian Police: Model for Successful Transformation
The article published on [Boing Boing on] January 12, 2012, about the initiative by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia to introduce new portable field computers (so called “Police Pads”) ends with an anonymous quote declaring that "100% guaranteed those crooked, fat, lazy cops will be using these devices primarily for porn and Russian gambling services."
Stereotypes like this are easy to toss out—but are quite simply incorrect. This quote does not reflect the productivity, effectiveness, transparency, and reliability of the police force in Georgia today, but rather the bygone era of the 1990s, a reality that has drastically changed thanks to an ambitious and successful reform process.
The reform process in Georgia began immediately after the 2003 Rose Revolution. The new government inherited a completely corrupt and bloated law-enforcement system. The systemic corruption and the high level of crime throughout the country resulted in a very low level of public trust: fewer than 10% of Georgians had confidence in the police, according to 2003 polls. And the very low average policeman's salary (approximately $68 per month) made the soliciting of bribes routine.
Georgia has since made the creation of an efficient and modern police force a national priority, undertaking a series of reforms that sought to rebuild the national police force literally from the ground up. Read the rest
Photo: La Repubblica, Italy
That is the graffiti in one of the destroyed streets in this Saturday's "indignati" demonstration. It ended in violence against the police, city security, and last but not least the pacifist organizers of the manifestation, in tune with the world wide movements OCCUPY.
The graffiti sounds like some epic motto of ancient Rome when power struggles burned palaces, libraries, and streets.
Roman life may not be too different after all, except that 2000 years later, we somehow believe that those conflicts should be resolved without arson. Maybe we are wrong. Maybe the fact that people are organized using web networks does not free them from timeless forms of treachery and palace intrigue, or the manipulation and destruction of good political intent.
Anyway, after the mayhem, the search was on for the hooded arsonists, organized through the Internet and through private video shots by participants.
Italy remembers very well the violent "Years of Lead" (late 60's to early 80's), when red and black terrorists planted bombs in public places, blasting innocent citizens in the name of their distorted concept of supreme justice. For years they rampaged beyond the reach of police, courts and other institutions.
Even today, after many years, some cases of public terrorism have not been resolved. Books have been written by important authors to explain the supposedly important difference between a red and a black bomb detonated in public. The Nobel prize authors Dario Fo wrote a play where he showed how easily the police could frame anarchists for terrorism, killing them by legal means. Read the rest
In July, Outfest has a slew of remarkable screenings and live events in LA. that Boing Boing readers should know about (disclosure: I'm proud to serve on the festival's board of directors).
The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye / Thee Majesty concert (July 9, 7pm. REDCAT)
Boing Boing fave and pioneering cult artists Genesis Breyer P-Orridge (Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV) and beloved Other Half Lady Jaye (who passed away at 39 years old in 2007) are the subject of The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye. Director Marie Losier documents the loving relationship of the two soul mates and collaborators, focusing on their Pandrogyne project. As an expression of their love, the pair received simultaneous surgical procedures to merge into a third pandrogynous being. Update from Genesis Breyer P-Orridge: "It's really a love, LOVE letter to Jaye and all the casualties of the pain of bigotry and bias too many of us experience." [apologies for the inaccurate earlier description! -AJ]
Following the film, Thee Majesty will play a full set of their ambient soundscapes and spoken word, led by Genesis. This rare performance will blend poetry, performance with music improvisation, hypnotic loops and blistering noise. Sounds like a Boing Boing lullaby! Read the rest
The great moral philosopher Jeremy Bentham, founder of utilitarianism, famously said,'The question is not, "Can they reason?" nor, "Can they talk?" but rather, "Can they suffer?" Most people get the point, but they treat human pain as especially worrying because they vaguely think it sort of obvious that a species' ability to suffer must be positively correlated with its intellectual capacity. Plants cannot think, and you'd have to be pretty eccentric to believe they can suffer. Plausibly the same might be true of earthworms. But what about cows?
What about dogs? I find it almost impossible to believe that René Descartes, not known as a monster, carried his philosophical belief that only humans have minds to such a confident extreme that he would blithely spreadeagle a live mammal on a board and dissect it. You'd think that, in spite of his philosophical reasoning, he might have given the animal the benefit of the doubt. But he stood in a long tradition of vivisectionists including Galen and Vesalius, and he was followed by William Harvey and many others (See from which this picture is taken).
How could they bear to do it: tie a struggling, screaming mammal down with ropes and dissect its living heart, for example? Presumably they believed what came to be articulated by Descartes: that non-human animals have no soul and feel no pain. Read the rest
(Lady Gaga performs during a gay pride concert in downtown Rome.
Stefano Rellandini / Reuters)
The gay icon Lady Gaga was there wearing her green wig, together with up to one million people marching chanting singing in a carnival gay pride march.
Rome is the capital of Vatican too, the place where Pope lives and preaches from his balcony every Sunday morning about how people should live and love. Lady Gaga's motto this Sunday was the power of love. She recalled her Italian origin and name ( La Germanotta) and, in a passionate speech, demanded immediate equal rights for the gays, meaning the right to get married, have children etc. While singing her new song Born This Way, an anthem to diversity...
But only few days ago, the Pope announced his firm opposition to equalize even straight informal marriages, that is, unions not sanctioned by God in a marriage sacrament. Where the Catholic church is concerned, gay marriages are not only a taboo topic but even a place of severe demonization and homophobia. Read the rest
(PHOTOS / REUTERS. At left, in 1993: Bosnian Serb army Commander General Ratko Mladic (L) salutes.)
The self-proclaimed "God of genocide" in Srebrenica, the Serbian ethnic general Ratko Mladic was arrested today in a small village eighty kilometers from Belgrade.
Mladic sheltered there with a relative, and lived under a false name. For years on end he hid like a house-mouse, and was arrested with a similar meekness.
Old, docile, with one hand crippled, the formerly ferocious warlord lived peaceably and invisibly in a house that had been searched repeatedly by the Serbian police. This long-wanted war criminal and exceedingly successful fugitive from justice had a 10 million euro award on his head.
And yet, recent polls say that, despite the suffering and ignominy he brought them, 51 percent of Serbian citizens would not have given him up to the international war tribunal in the Hague. No, not for any money. Serbian stubbornness has gone beyond the period of Mladic's bloodstained hero-worship. Nowadays the Serbs have grown indifferent to Mladic while actively resenting the European Union, whose economic disorders have made Serbian life miserable.
And yet it appears that somebody did betray Mladic for the reward: someone among his circle of close friends. Some years ago, an entire group of people, who were all accused of actively sheltering Mladic, were released from a Serbian court through lack of evidence.
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Smartphone apps make it trivial to snap a photo, upload it to a host, and post a link to Twitter, sometimes in a single step. But by storing a photo on a hosting service to display via Twitter and beyond, you're assigning some subset of your copyright to that sharing site. Since the 1970s, copyright is inherent in the act of creation, no matter whether it's a snapshot or your life's work. There's a conflict when you present some license for your work to parties which you have only a slender thread of a relationship.
All images uploaded are copyright © their respective owners.
This was modified to include a lengthy section on copyright that raised hackles because it seemed to give TwitPic an enormous grant of rights, even while assuring users that they owned their work. The motivation was likely to clarify policies after Agence France-Presse (AFP) used Haitian photographer Daniel Morel's images of the aftermath of the earthquake without permission. Morel uploaded images to TwitPic, which were then duplicated by another person, and AFP distributed them. A lawsuit is long underway. TwitPic's copyright information shown at that time was more ambiguous about who owned what.
Nonetheless, the new copyright terms raise more questions than they bury. One point of contention was a sloppy paragraph that said once you'd uploaded a picture to TwitPic you couldn't license it to the media, agencies, or other parties and have those groups retrieve it (with your permission) from TwitPic. Read the rest
Caroline Spelman. PHOTO: Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino
One would think from reports today that the UK's secretary of state for the environment and rural affairs, MP Caroline Spelman, had lost her bleeding mind. Spelman has been widely quoted about a new report from her agency, Defra, about the threat to infrastructure from global climate change. It covers the extremes of temperature and the routine occurrence of heat above a normal range for the UK, and more storms and severe weather that could ravage Great Britain.
The report is an analysis on what changes need be made to keep bridges from buckling in heat or cracking in cold, and nuclear and fossil-fuel plants from suffering damage from previously unthinkable conditions, as well as quotidian issues like floods polluting water supplies and spreading sewage. It's a ripping read, and, please recall, originates from the Tories, the majority conservative part of a coalition government that completely acknowledges the reality of a range of risk potential from climate change. The Conservatives are no Republicans, no matter what else you may say about them.
Nonetheless the report's broader issues were overlooked because of a focus on an exceedingly tiny statement buried in it that Spelman highlighted in a speech unveiling the work. Her prepared remarks have her saying:
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Our economy is built on effective transport and communications networks and reliable energy and water supplies. But the economy cannot grow if there are repeated power failures, or goods cannot be transported because roads are flooded and railways have buckled, or if intense rainfall or high temperatures disrupt Wi-Fi signals.
Photo by Ged Carroll. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
A recent article in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology makes a case that height makes right. That is, it cites four separate studies showing that people who were physically elevated (up on a raised platform, for example) behaved in a more humane and altruistic fashion than those below. As Scientific American notes today, "height is often used as a metaphor for virtue: moral high ground, God on high, looking up to good people, etc." The journal article, by Larry Sanna and associates at the University of North Carolina, suggests that height's value may be more than symbolic. What if, as one of the studies posits, escalators actually elevate good intentions: "Twice as many mall shoppers who had just ridden an up escalator contributed to the Salvation Army than shoppers who had just ridden the down escalator."
That said, escalators aren't all good. Read the rest
The fine folks at COILHOUSE magazine (mentioned many a time here in the past, and who featured Xeni and Boing Boing Video in issue 3 have just put made available for the first time all five back issues as DRM-free PDF downloads. Issues are $5 each or $20 for all five, with promises that the funds from this will go directly into the production of issue number 6. The COILHOUSE team are some of my favorite people; if you missed picking up the printed versions when they were available, now is your chance to catch up.
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The photo sharing/social network app Color launched last week, and much fuss was made for a variety of reasons: massive media hype, massive funding, and a complete lack of documentation about how people should actually use the app. Mike 3K found this brilliant iPhone app store review of Color, which makes the whole affair worthwhile. Read the whole thing here. Read the rest
It's one of those ideas that sounds less nuts the more you think about it: "The Wire" imagined as a 19th-century serialized novel. After all, David Simon's great multi-season drama had all the muckraking moral outrage of Charles Dickens (Google the reviews and try to count the number of times you see the word "Dickensian"), and its shifting viewpoint over five seasons gave it a similar historical sweep and reportorial authority. The real kick of "When It's Not Your Turn," though, is its obsessive attention to detail. You have to admire the dedication of creators Joy Delyria and Sean Michael Robinson, who seemingly cram every arcane bit of the show's rich mythology into a fake lit-crit essay. The illustrations, ostensibly by Baxter "Bubz" Black, just add to the goofy verisimilitude of the thing. It's a fabulous fraud. Read the rest
Just noticed this powerful advertisement from the Topsy Foundation. It was one of the winners at TED's "Ad's Worth Spreading" contest, which is generally worth checking out.
This particular video does a great job (with a lovely twist at the end) at showing the effectiveness of HIV antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). There's also a followup video you can view that checks in on the woman (Selinah) as well as chatting with the folks behind the video.
Although I realize that the ARVs have been made possible by the work done in the pharmaceutical industry, and that there is a chance that Topsy's programs are facilitated by kind donations from the same industry, it's still a pity that there isn't a more sustainable system for the provision of such drugs to developing countries. Pity that these sorts of medicines are usually priced way too high for individuals like Selinah, which is why so many go untreated and so many die. Pity also that laws like Bill C-393 (which aim to explore different ways to create that sustainable market and lower that price) are being deliberately stalled in government so as to guarantee not being passed.
That kind of unfortunate reality deserves a megafacepalm. Read the rest
It's hard to to top the phrase "pole dancing for Jesus" -- I dare you to even try -- because it satisfies so many absolutely awful contemporary needs in just four words. It's the perfect bogus local-news trend story. (I first saw it on Wonkette, but it was picked up from the Fox affiliate in Houston.) It's an SEO bonanza. And it's an awesome name for the next band you never heard of that's suddenly appearing on "Saturday Night Live" for some reason. The fact that it's an actual thing -- there's a class in it at a dance studio in Spring, TX, a northern suburb of Houston, and the newsbabe somberly assures the anchordude that "you have to bring your church program with you in order to get into the class' -- only makes it better. Or worse. Or something. "Tune in," newsbabe tells anchordude, promising him in this teaser segment that she herself will take a few twirls for Jesus in the nine o'clock hour. "We will," anchordude replies, a glittery mix of prurience and ratings-lust in his eyes. Or is that just good old-fashioned religious fervor? it's getting so hard to tell.
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For the interest of discussion, I've made the above visual aid for members of Canada's Senate, since this is the week that they have a chance to pass a Bill that "aims to make it easier for Canada to export affordable, life-saving, generic medicines to developing countries."
I wrote about this Bill C-393 earlier, stating how the right choice (passing the bill and not killing the bill) is obvious. But then it occurred to me that if the decision was so obvious, then why is there so much "push back" from the pharmaceutical industry (as well as the Harper government).
It turns out the reason appears to be about Bill C-393 representing a trend that "could potentially" lead to a loss of control over the status quo. This being the status quo that provides the pharmaceutical industry with an inordinate amount of lobbying power to set prices; a business model that values huge profits above innovation; and something that they are so focused on protecting that even the smallest of losses must be avoided no matter the consequences.
Which is simply reprehensible - because with this Bill, the consequences are not just about patent control: it's about the livelihood of millions of people, where the decision to "kill" or "not kill" the Bill could literally be a matter of life or death.
Please send an email to the Harper government by using this Avaaz link. Read the rest
[Video Link] Veena Malik is a Pakistani actress who appeared on the very popular Indian TV show Bigg Boss (the Indian version of Big Brother). In the clip above, a mullah tells her she brought shame on Pakistan with her behavior on the show, and that 100% of Pakistanis agree with him. The mullah also admits he didn't watch the show himself, but knows all of this to be true.
Veena responds by pretty much mopping up the floor with him. She points out out how her religion backs up her actions, where he's in violation of the same rules he's taking her to task for. She also says if he wishes to defend Islam, there are countless targets more deserving of close inspection, but here he is instead wasting his time complaining about an actress.
It's fantastic. The world needs to see more of this. Go Veena!
(via soupsoup) Read the rest